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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

5 must-have mods for your vintage ride

Our beloved cars and trucks were perfect the day they left the assembly line. Well, sort of, if you consider how manufacturing has improved decade after decade. Yes, time marches on, and everything from engineering to materials science moves forward with it.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/hagerty-community/5-must-have-mods-for-your-vintage-ride/
209 REPLIES 209
Swamibob
Instructor

Check out the folks at Scarebird Classic Brakes https://scarebird.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=64 They have all sorts of disc brake kits available for all kinds of old cars. Good people and good engineering.
darlenne
New Driver

My #1 chaoice: heated seats. Cheap (under $100) and relatively easy to install. Invisible, except for a hidden switch. Perfect for top down driving in all weather, and car with no heaters. And the only thing that gives it away, is you smile on those cool crisp mornings.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

We took my Model A phaeton to a car show yesterday here in Illinois. The leather seats were plenty warm and we actually kept cool with the windshield slightly open and the side curtains removed. Yes, even he granddaughter smiled as the wind blew her hair.
I suppose it would help me smile in January on a snowy afternoon.
TonyT
Instructor

And your granddaughter will never forget that day!
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

Put them in my '96 Ranger when I had it apart last summer. Really helps the aching old back on those cold winter mornings - - -
OldFordMan
Detailer

These suggestions make me want to barf!
Buy 70 or 80's+ if you want this stuff.
Will
Intermediate Driver

Great list! I agree with all of these. I've done a few on various cars and plan to do more on others. Backup cameras are a good option to. and most can be mounted where it can't be seen.
cyclemikey
Intermediate Driver

If you want to drive a modern car with modern features, why not BUY ONE? But that's the thing - a whole lot of people don't really want to drive a vintage automobile, they just want to LOOK like they're driving one. While enjoying power disc brakes, air conditioning, sound insulation, alternators, fuel injection, bluetooth stereo, electric power steering, digital instruments, and God knows what else. But hey! Look at me! I'm driving an old car!
ModelT
Advanced Driver

At yesterday's local car show there was only one vehicle older than my 1931 Model A. It was the 1929 Model A roadster pick up next to mine. His engine was recently rebuilt with a few shiny parts. Looked and ran great.
My Model A has a 260 Falcon V-8 painted semi gloss black. Most of the crowd had no idea that little 260 V-8 wasn't factory stock. Actually it is a 60 year old Ford engine. Even that's older than many cars now at cruise ins.
Many other slightly newer old cars were 99% fibreglass pretend classics. The rest muscle cars. Along with Corvettes, Camaros, and late model Mustangs this is what we see at car events now.
Musco03
Pit Crew

Well all that is fine but you are taking the fun of risking your life, wondering if you will make it back home and the great feeling when you pull into your garage with that feeling. " I MADE IT "
beeser
Intermediate Driver

I know that feeling. I get it every time I arrive home on my BSA....

Edwchase
New Driver

100% disagree with fuel injection. If a wanted a modern car, I would buy a modern car. I like driving an old car that still feels like an old car.

Electronic ignition, insulation and upgraded brakes are ok for the right car, but not for all cars.

However I do agree with upgrading to an altenator.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

The 1929 Model A roadster pickup next to me at the car show had a rebuilt stock engine and a new battery with stock generator. It took him 15 min. slow cranking, trying the hand crank, letting it sit, then barely cranking over to start. For some reason it turned over very slowly.
My Model A has a 260 V-8 Ford engine, 12 V, and alternator. It had those modifications when I bought it. Barely touching the dash mounted starter button had it running instantly.
I'd sort of rather have a stock Model A engine but at my age cruising at 55-60 MPH with no worries keeps me smiling. With the original rear and all suspension it feels like an old car!
At a minumum I'd add an alternator and hydraulic brakes to any car except the oldest of original "show only" vehicles.
ModelAkid
Pit Crew

All my Model A's are drivers and no way I would convert to hydraulic brakes. I have had the brake pedal go to the floor on more than one modern iron, never on any Model A no matter how poor the condition. Model A mechanical brakes either work somewhat or great depending on the condition. The one exception to a hydraulic brake pedal going to the floor was in my unrestored Hudson: if the pedal gets too close to the floor it has linkage to the parking brake.
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

Brakes from a '37 were a common upgrade on model a and '32s way back. Combined with marginal ignition systems and a bit of wear on the starter, a 6 volt car can be MISERABLE to start. I had a crank for my '49 bug and used it often. Same with the '28 Chevy. I converted my '53 hemi coronet to 12 volts and never looked back.
Padgett
Intermediate Driver

Thought there were alternator conversions that looked like generators. Later Corvairs came with alternators.
All of my cars now have AGM batteries, modern radial tires with an extra cap belt, synthetic oil and fluids, long-life antifreeze, and handsfree telephone.
RichH
Detailer

There ARE alternators that look like generators. I think Moss Motors has them.
Neal
New Driver

The plugin neatly hidden in the cigar lighter for my GPS is a must for geographically challenged people like me!
ModelT
Advanced Driver

We use my son's Smart phone for GPS and even to check the speed. I still use an old paper Atlas and rarely ever got lost. My kids have no idea where Alexa is sending them.
mwmyers91
Detailer

if its a driver than I am all for upgrades even AC. if its a all original trailer queen then keep it real.
carguyjim
Detailer

I have a '28 Model A Pickup Roadster. As a stick shift enthusiast and precious manual trans Lambo pilot, I was never happy driving my "A" as I could not help but grind the gears, all the time!!! I felt like an idiot and then I made the best upgrade I could have, a SYNCHRONIZED trans conversion! Not very pricey and what a difference!!! FUN to drive here in Big Bear Lake Cali now!!!!
ModelAkid
Pit Crew

I could teach you how to drive the Model A original transmission without grinding gears, even on a downshift.
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

There's even a kit to put in a 5 speed, if I remember correctly - even a 4 speed is an improvement
acpracing
Pit Crew

+1 for always-geared hi-torque starters to replace the bendix and what it eventually does to the ring gear - have those in my MGs and E-type. Also electronic ignition (MG). My 77 f150 needs FI and air though!
Hacksaw
New Driver

All these items listed are perfect. I have done all of them on my C2. Best upgrade was the disc brakes. When the drums were on it you never knew which way it was going to head when you hit the binders. Now it stops straight. We not only look good but drive good.
Arnold
New Driver

Lubricants and nylon bushings.
CraigO20
New Driver

What do you mean "VINTAGE"? 30 years old? 50 years old? 100 years old? Your list is really pretty silly for 100 year old vehicles. My cars are stock with a few undetectable "modern" upgrades and period correct aftermarket improvements. We drive them because they are OLD. These antiques are rolling way-back machines. A lot of us like them that way. If you want fuel injection, hydraulic brakes and an electronic ignition, get a newer vehicle or upgrade your hot rod. I'm not sure what audience this article was for, but it sure wasn't for me.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

My wife and I spent much time over 60+ years looking for a 1931 Model A deluxe phaeton. If I found one it was too expensive, too far away, or I had no place for it.
60 years later I found our dream Model A. Except for minor details like a Falcon V-8, 4-speed, hydraulic brakes, F-1 steering, a modified dash besel, etc.
I don't have another 60 years left so I bought it and am very happy with my modified Model A. The car is 90 years old and the engine/tranny 60 years old. Most who look under the hood think it's factory original. It looks old, feels old, and handles like it's old....... just like me!
I'd swap it for a good original Victoria in a minute.
Kyle
Moderator

Interesting to read your comment. Ii tend to use the term vintage to describe non-modern cars because folks get pretty heated about the definition of the term "classic." Calling them old just seems mean because there is a lot of people I know that were born in the '50s and '60s that I would not consider old. Open to suggestions as to a general term for enthusiasts cars that are not brand new.
Swamibob
Instructor

Hey Kyle:

Great article! And apparently pretty powerful considering all the responses. Good job there. I agree on the use of the term 'Vintage' because it can cover a lot of ground.
I do find it interesting; how many positive responses to upgrades get a more negative and in a lot of cases a pretty vehement "get off my lawn" reply. Not sure why that is. Why does improving how your old car functions get someone else's dander up? Not sure why my owning and improving my old car to conform to my way of using it would affect anyone else to a point where they are upset with my changes? That strikes me as the same sort of busy body mentality that seems to permeate one side of the political world too. Old cars are a wonderful hobby. Do they all need to be exactly as original?
67sunroof
Pit Crew

Well, to begin with there have been several reports of failure of the original Model T front axle to support the extra weight of disc brakes. Metal fatigue is the likely cause considering the steel alloy is 100 years old and has done a lot of flexing over the years. And although I understand the lure of electronic ignition and alternators on Model A Fords, I don't really think they're necessary. I also hold that opinion for 12 volt conversions. "Bright and tight" 6-volt electronic components usually work just fine. If you have a car of that vintage, given the rate of attrition, it ought be preserved as an object of history. Who really needs to go 75 miles an hour in a Model A? Exactly how far is your face from the windshield, anyway?
There's no true way to calculate the number of total miles stock Model Ts and Model As were driven. Surely that figure is in the billions. They ran just fine when new, off the showroom floor.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

Disc brakes on the front of a Model T would not add much weight. The front axle was made to twist and bend. However I agree disc brakes look silly and the rest of the stock front end would eventually give out. Possibly wire wheels would help.
Kits used to be made for Model T 4-wheel brakes. Thinking back when we had a Model T, even 40 MPH was scary.
My slightly modified original suspension, steering, and closed drive Model A has gone 75+ briefly. It handled amazingly well but being an open car, it wouldn't be practical for many miles. Hydraulic brakes, a booster, F-1 steering box, and a 260 Ford V-8 helps.
I also suggest 12V upgrade with a GM alternator for any driver. LED headlites are now available for that stock look.
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

I've seen motorcycle disc brakes put on the front of a T - didn't look terribly out of place and helped stopping a LOT.. Not sure I'd want them on wood spoke wheels - even the poor drums on the '28 National were hard on the wheels
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

The T didn't have front brakes at all so the axle wasn't designed to take torque. A "stock" T isn't likely to outdrive the 6 volt candles - which were an improvement over the acetylene lights on the brass cars. On a modified car, no reason NOT to go to 12 volts- and plenty of reasons to.
SJ
Instructor

After growing up with drum brakes, I hate them. I will tolerate them for the rear if I have too. They almost got me killed numerous times. Higher speeds and water they are practically useless. Around town in the dry, yea ok. The only ones that sorta worked at high speed wore out the drums faster than the shoes and were useless until heated up well(on my '59 Pontiac).
oldcardoc
Pit Crew

Yes brakes , and alternator ,fuel injection and ignition upgrade are really the most important items to upgrade if you can incorporate them into the car you have. I have a 1935 Ford coupe and I went with a 6 volt alternator because I didn't want to convert the wiring and gauges etc. but it made a lot of difference because the lighting comes in 6 volt halogen bright bulbs and lighting is necessary for night driving . The brakes I left mechanical but did and up grade to make them perform about 80% better than stock and it will stop on a dime now and give you back change . The ignition can be changed to electronic but that would mean a change to 12 volt and the original ignition works really good for the kind of driving I do since I don't travel long distances and so far it's been reliable as is . Fuel injection is out but I did go with an electric 6 volt fuel pump and a carb that has been up graded to accept the 10% alcohol blend fuels and the mechanical fuel pump also the electric fuel pump just gives the old mechanical pump a helping hand for cold starts in the winter and long stands without running maybe a week or better at a time . I also changed the battery to a n Optima since they are more or less much easier and cleaner to put inside the car's trunk if that's where your going to put it. Even under the seat lying down is possible with the dry cell type Optima . Their just better and last longer too.
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

Pertronix makes a 6 volt ignitor. The 1285LSP6 is a drop-in system for Ford Flatheads

 
janedon
Intermediate Driver

Taking a Classic & modernizing it is -stripping it of what it is--It is no longer a classic--Why not just buy new?? They won't be making anymore of these cars--Why Destroy them?
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

Wouldn't do it on a concours car - but most of these cars start out "destroyed" to start with - if you are building a "driver" make it safe and fun to drive
BMD4800
Instructor

Bingo.

If it has been restored once, drive it!! It can be restored again.
csnyder
Intermediate Driver

If it's a good survivor, there is a point in not doing ANYTHING to it, as it's only original once - but reversible modifications that make it more reliable or safer, or just nice to drive, are never REALLY out of place and don't hurt the value if you put the original stuff back on to sell - and it saves the old original parts.

janedon
Intermediate Driver

maintaining it--makes it Safe (& not driving like a nutcase)-

Kyle
Moderator

All of the modifications on this list are bolt on in most cases--and thus "bolt off" too. There are literally millions of cars and trucks out there, no need to tell people how to enjoy their property. We all play with our toys differently, and that is okay.
BMD4800
Instructor

Here-Here, Bruce!
BMD4800
Instructor

Who’s destroying it?

Javman
Pit Crew

Restoration or restomod, upgrades or stock, high tech or old school, who cares. It is your ride, you bought it for your own reasons, nobody elses. Do with it as you wish and enjoy. Don't worry about the naysayers or sceptics, most of them are probably jealous of what you have. My ride is turning 50 next year and has a few upgrades to make it more reliable and look cooler than stock but the best thing about it is the smile it puts on my face every time I get behind the wheel.
brouggly
New Driver

All about choices.  I guess I "got over" wrenching on oldies in my youth. ('48 GMC, '37 Chevy, '56 Chevy, etc)  I still enjoy the driving but look for the reliability and some creature comforts of a more modern ride.  I'll appreciate the restorations and hotrods from a slight distance thanks.  As long as I can still get behind the wheel of our MR2 I'll keep enjoying the ride!

RodneyRacer
Pit Crew

My cars are original and do just fine. My 1924, 1929 and 1947 have a set of points in them that have been there for longer than I have been breathing. As long as the condenser stays alive, the points will thrive. If I stand on the brake pedal at speed, the tires will lock up---- Why would I change to disc if the tires are just going to skid?
I do have cars with updated systems, but really dont see that much of this is necessary. As for electronic fuel injection, I am undecided. Because our gasoline has been so messed up that carbs deal with evaporation of this gasoline and the way carbs work, this gas just doesn't do well unless it is feed into the intake under his pressure. I have been trying some EFI systems on a couple projects.
Roadmaster
Pit Crew

I agree concerning the gas. Ethanol is not good for rubber parts and detonates at a high temperature causing older cars to overheat. I am fortunate in that there are gas stations close to me that sell straight gas and on occasion I will add a lead additive. Problem solved.

HotRodMojo
New Driver

Really... if you want a modern car drive one. I have owned, and driven, Triumph TR-2/3's, three 48-56 Ford pickups, a couple '52 Mercurys, a '39 Ford standard and a few more over the years. Yea some were hot rods with a Nailhead or a Cleveland or a blown Hemi. But I never really had any urge to "update" with an alternator, digital gauges or any of the "flavor of the day" modifications to make a car drive like a new one. 99% of the fun is driving with the old technology. What's next? Maybe paint a new smile on the Mona Lisa?